Many sequencing projects nowadays targeted at the analysis of novel genomes also address the description of genetic variation within the species of interest. Commonly, "this is achieved by generating sequencing reads obtained from high-throughput sequencing technologies, followed by alignment of these reads against the reference genome to identify differences", explains Heinz Himmelbauer, a principle investigator of this study. The current work, nevertheless, went one step further and generated genome assemblies from four additional sugar beet lines. This allowed the researchers to obtain a much better picture of intraspecific variation in sugar beet than would have been possible otherwise. In summary, 7 million variants were discovered throughout the genome. However, variation was not uniformly distributed: The authors found regions of high, but also of very low variation, reflecting both the small population size from which the crop was established, as well as the human selection, which has shaped the plants' genomes.
Thanks to the sugar beet genome sequence made by the researchers and the associated resources generated, future studies on the molecular dissection of natural and artificial selection, gene regulation and gene-environment interaction, as well as biotechnological approaches to customize the crop to different uses in the production of sugar and other natural products, are expected to be held. "Sugar beet will be an important cornerstone of future genomic studies involving plants, due to its taxonomic position", the authors claim.
|Contact: Dr. Bernd Weisshaar|
University of Bielefeld